Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of administrative mandamus relief in an action stemming from the Appeals Board's decision finding that the company violated various state regulations. The court held that the superior court properly applied the substantial evidence standard of review. The court also held that, based on an examination of the administrative record, substantial evidence supported the Appeals Board's findings that the company freely and voluntarily consented to the inspection; Cal/OSHA's failure to preserve the original inspection file did not deprive the company of due process; and the violations underlying the four contested citations were properly classified. View "Nolte Sheet Metal v. Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 1085 and 1094.5. Plaintiff alleged that the Department improperly extended his probation; he became a permanent employee 12 months after his hire date; and as a permanent employee, he was entitled to a hearing before discharge. The court held that there was no prohibition against the Department acting unilaterally so long as the other requirements of rule 12.02(B) of the Los Angeles County Civil Service Rules were met; rule 12.02 expressly permits the Department to exclude from the calculation of the probationary period, those times when an employee is absent from duty, and makes no reference as to whether that absence is paid or unpaid; the court interpreted the term "absent from duty" to mean that an employee is missing from his or her obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions, arising from his or her position, here, the position of deputy sheriff; and plaintiff failed to articulate what, if any, duties he was required to perform during the period he was on Relieved of Duty status. View "Amezcua v. L.A. County Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Carla St. Myers worked as a nurse practitioner at a rural clinic that was part of a medical center owned and operated by defendant Dignity Health. During the three years she worked there, she submitted over 50 complaints about working conditions and was also the subject of several investigations based on anonymous complaints. All the investigations concluded the complaints against St. Myers were unsubstantiated and no action was taken against her. She found another job and resigned. But claiming her resignation was a constructive termination due to intolerable working conditions, St. Myers sued Dignity Health and Optum360 Services, Inc., setting forth three causes of action for retaliation under various statutory provisions and constructive discharge in violation of public policy. The complaint sought both general and punitive damages. The trial court granted the separate motions of Dignity Health and Optum360 for summary judgment and St. Myers appealed those judgments. As to Optum360, the Court of Appeal found St. Myers failed to establish a triable issue of material fact that Optum360 was her employer, a prerequisite under the pleadings for all her claims. As to Dignity Health, the Court found St. Myers failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to any adverse employment action. Accordingly, the Court affirmed summary judgment. View "St. Myers v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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An employee of the city struck and killed a pedestrian while the employee, driving his own car, was driving to work. On the day of the accident, the employee was driving to his workplace at the Hyperion Treatment Plant, a job that did not require him to be in the field or use his personal automobile for his employment. The city moved for summary judgment, arguing that the coming and going rule insulated it from liability. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the city, holding that plaintiffs failed to adduce sufficient facts upon which they could establish a triable issue of fact on their claim that the employee's accident was a foreseeable event arising from or relating to his employment for the city at its water plant laboratory. In this case, nothing about the enterprise for which the city employed the employee made his hitting a pedestrian while commuting a foreseeable risk of this enterprise. Therefore, the going and coming rule was created for this type of situation and was applicable in this case, precluding plaintiffs' claim of vicarious liability against the city. View "Bingener v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mohammed Noori sued his former employer, Countrywide Payroll & HR Solutions, Inc., for violations of California law relating to mandated information on employee itemized wage statements. Plaintiff alleged, amongst other things, that Countrywide violated Labor Code Section 226(a) by: (1) providing wage statements bearing an acronym instead of the full legal name of the employer; and (2) failing to maintain copies of accurate itemized wage statements. The trial court granted Countrywide’s demurrer. THe Court of Appeal determined plaintiff’s complaint indeed stated a claim under the Labor Code for failure to provide the employer’s name: the wage statements listed “CSSG,” the abbreviation of a fictitious business name. Furthermore, the Court concluded plaintiff satisfied the notice requirement for bringing his action under the Private Attorneys General Act. View "Noori v. Countrywide Payroll & HR Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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Beau Gordon, a professional roofer, fell 35 feet through a "camouflaged hole" in a warehouse roof he was inspecting. For the resulting head injury, a jury awarded Gordon approximately $875,000 against the building's owner, ARC Manufacturing, Inc. (ARC) and Joseph Meyers. The primary issue on appeal was whether the trial court correctly refused to instruct on primary assumption of risk where, as here, defendants did not hire or engage Gordon. The Court of Appeal concluded that primary assumption of risk did not apply, rejected appellants' other contentions, and affirmed the judgment. View "Gordon v. ARC Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law

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Former psychologist at Ironwood State Prison (Ironwood), John Doe, sued his former employer, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) alleging discrimination, retaliation, and harassment based on disability. Doe also alleged CDCR violated FEHA by failing to accommodate his two disabilities, asthma and dyslexia, by relocating him to a cleaner and quieter office and providing him with requested computer equipment. Finding no triable issues of material fact, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of CDCR. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Doe v. Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation" on Justia Law

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Former managers of Safeway supermarket stores filed suit seeking unpaid overtime wages, claiming they had been misclassified as exempt executives under regulations applicable to the mercantile industry. A jury found that Safeway had proven that William Cunningham had been an exempt employee and was therefore not entitled to overtime pay. Cunningham challenged the trial court's instruction based on the language in Batze v. Safeway, Inc. (2017) 10 Cal.App.5th 440, and Heyen v. Safeway Inc. (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 795. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment and clarified that a task does not become exempt merely because the manager undertakes it in order to contribute to the smooth functioning of the store. The court held that an instruction on the consideration of the manager’s purpose, where appropriate, must inform the jury of relevant limiting principles outlined in the applicable regulations and recognized by the court's prior decisions. Therefore, the court held that the trial court's instruction did not affect the jury's verdict. The court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the contested expert testimony under the circumstances of this case. View "Safeway Wage and Hour Cases" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a political cartoonist and blogger, filed suit against The Times and others, alleging causes of action for defamation and for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Plaintiff filed suit after The Times published a "note to readers" and a later more detailed report questioning the accuracy of a blog post plaintiff wrote for The Times. The trial court granted defendants' anti-SLAPP motions to strike plaintiff's complaint. In light of Wilson v. Cable News Network, Inc. (2019) 7 Cal.5th 871, the Court of Appeal again affirmed the trial court's orders. The court held that plaintiff's defamation claims arose from The Times articles and both were published in a public forum, concerning issues of public interest. The court also held that plaintiff failed to produce evidence demonstrating a probability of prevailing on his defamation claims, where The Times articles were fair and true reports of an LAPD investigation that was central to the substance of the articles, and accordingly absolutely privileged under Civil Code section 47, subdivision (d). In regard to plaintiff's employment claims, the court held that Wilson confirmed that The Times met its burden to show plaintiff's employment claims arose from protected activity. Furthermore, plaintiff could not prevail on the merits of his claims for wrongful termination and breach of an express oral contract. View "Rall v. Tribune 365, LLC" on Justia Law

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Mathews worked for Happy Valley Conference Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Valley is an affiliate of the Community of Christ. When a younger male employee confided in Mathews that Valley’s female executive director had been sending him sexually inappropriate text messages, Mathews reported the allegation to the board of directors and the Church’s general counsel. The director admitted sending the messages, was reprimanded, and was allowed to continue supervising Mathews and the younger male employee. Mathews, terminated less than a month later, alleged retaliatory termination. Defendants were ordered to pay almost $900,000 in damages (including punitive damages) and $1 million in attorney’s fees. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that the Church cannot be held liable for Valley’s actions because the two do not fall within the single employer doctrine and that the single employer doctrine jury instruction was prejudicially erroneous; that Valley is not liable under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000, because it does not have enough full-time employees; that defendants are not liable under the version of the whistleblower statute in effect at the time of the events; that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the Church breached Mathews's implied or actual contract; that the Title VII damages were beyond the maximum allowed; that noneconomic and punitive damages were not recoverable for breach of contract; that punitive damages were excessive; and that attorney’s fees were not recoverable. The judgment must be modified to reflect that defendants are exempt from liability under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Gov. Code, 12900. View "Mathews v. Happy Valley Conference Center, Inc." on Justia Law